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Decorative Storage with Flea Market Finds

8 Ways to Organize, Store, and Display Your Stuff


stack of old painted drawers

Use a stack of vintage, painted drawers to organize paperwork.

photo &copy Leah French

Flea markets aren't just great places to buy stuff. They're a great source for the things you need to store, organize, and display your stuff. Whether you need to stash something completely out of sight or you want to display it in a place of honor, you can use these flea market finds for decorative storage:

China Cabinets:

China cabinets aren't just for the dining room. Use a large one in your study or home library as a covered bookcase. Or, tuck a small china cabinet into a corner of your living room to house a collection of curiosities. In your child or teen's room, paint and restyle an old china cabinet for housing memorabilia, trophies, or a collection of dolls.


Old trunks were designed to maximize storage in the smallest possible space. Many antique wardrobe trunks, which typically have drawers and compartments for hanging clothes, are gorgeous both open and closed. Use an open version in the bathroom or study for storing toiletries or office supplies. Use a closed trunk -- wardrobe or any flat-topped trunk -- as an end table, nightstand or tabletop bar. You can use it to hide holiday decorations, family photos, or craft and sewing supplies.

Train Cases:

Train cases are those small, top-handled pieces of luggage used for makeup and toiletries. Antique versions are frequently made from leather. Train cases from the 60s and 70s are usually covered in vinyl, and they come in rainbow of fun, bright colors.

Now that we have rolling suitcases with retractable handles, vintage luggage is plentiful and nearly free -- especially if it's not old enough to be antique. Train cases are no exception. You can buy enough to fill your closet or open shelves without denting your purse. Fill them with scrapbooking, beading, and other craft supplies. When you're ready to use your supplies, grab the right train case and carry it to your worktable. When you're not working on a project, everything stays organized and out of sight.

Glass Jars:

Old glass jars with lids -- Mason jars, baby food jars, or condiment jars -- are ideal for storing items you need to see, and for adding a rustic, homespun touch to your decor. Place them in your bathroom for swabs and sponges. Use them as canisters in the kitchen for beans, pasta, and baking supplies. Keep an assortment of glass jars in the garage for sorting nails, picture hangers, and other bits of small hardware.

Industrial and Commercial Furniture:

Store your jewelry, family photos, hand tools, or sewing supplies in an old card catalog from the library. Sort your paperwork or prints in a bank of discarded pigeon holes from an old post office. Use an old overhead projector cart as a printer table. Turn a laboratory table into an island to give your kitchen the loft look.

Painted Tins:

Vintage painted tins come in every imaginable color, pattern, and size. Use the tiny ones for earring backs, paper clips, or postage stamps. Line up medium-sized tins -- try mixing a variety of patterns that share the same color scheme -- on your kitchen counter to hide dry goods. Use the largest sizes to hide that giant bag of dog food sitting in the kitchen floor, or the bag of cat litter in the bathroom. Remove the lid from a large tin and use it as a bathroom or office trash can.

Store Displays:

You can use old department store mannequins, jewelry busts or glove stands to corral and display vintage jewelry. Use a tabletop postcard rack to sort and store photographs. The wire stands with tiny metal clips for snack-sized bags of potato chips are also ideal for photos, or you can use them to display unframed artwork. The come in hanging and tabletop versions, and some of the tabletop stands even rotate.

Wooden Boxes, Wire baskets, and Stackable Drawers:

Handy for organizing open shelving, all of these work well in closets and bookcases -- and they're far more attractive than plastic tubs and crates. The smaller wooden drawers also work well for sorting paperwork. Use just two as in-and-out trays, or use an entire stack in place of a filing cabinet.

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